Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 - Advanced)
Topic: Gossip/Rumors (either or both) (10/28/10)
TITLE: Annie Marie and Me
By Mona Purvis
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Annie Marie woke me up to life. We were the most odd-pairing of friends one might imagine; she of an advanced age with her snowy-white hair and bright blue eyes and me an awkward twelve-year old girl. Her home was a grand estate; mine was a run-down trailer.
The day we met for the first time was like any other in my life. Walking to school, I took a shortcut in hopes to avoid Barney Ogle and his gang who taunted me mercilessly since learning my father was in prison. The route took me across the border of Annie Marie's ancestral sanctuary.
“Hey, four-eyes! When's yore ol man gonna break out?” Barney followed up his taunting with rock throwing, hitting me squarely on my shin and bringing blood.
The black wrought iron gate swung open and a strong hand guided me into the garden and away from my assailant.
“Come, child. Let's take a look at your leg. That needs cleaning up some, follow me into the house.”
“I'll be late for school again.” Tears blurred my vision and my voice cracked.
“This happen much?”
“What are your parents doing about it?”
“My parents? Ma stays out late drinkin so I don't see her much. Pa's...away.”
Annie Marie Sterling drove me to school that day in her old black Cadillac. She took up two parking spaces right in front of the walkway at Hidden Hills Junior High, got out of the car and walked into the school with me while holding my hand.
“I'll see you at three, Polly.” She kept her promise.
The folks in Stone Station, Georgia knew all about the Sterling family. The talk on the street was that Paul Sterling, Annie Marie's husband, had been killed in a knife fight over a priceless diamond. Rumors swirled about, saying he had stolen the gemstone while traveling in Spain. Some whispered he had killed a man to get it. Others stated emphatically the Sterlings got their wealth during prohibition, smuggling rum into the country. None of it mattered to me.
Annie Marie lived a simple life. Her days were filled with the joy of gardening, cooking and reading. Most cold days, she could be found snuggling under a quilt by the roaring fire in her library. Those days were special; she always asked me to read to her. At first, I was shy about it. But, over the years, it became my debut into the world of wonderful literature and thoughtful conversation.
We would dart outside on snowy days to gather pure snow in our bowls, add sugar, cream, vanilla and enjoy our snow-cream while we devoured the pages of works of Anne, Charlotte or Emily Bronte. We could read for hours.
To this day, I believe there is nothing better than hot, homemade rolls with creamy butter. Hers were special and we ate them often, not polluting the experience with honey or jam.
There was something about how she would listen to me. I needed her and somehow she needed me.
I, in the spring of my days and she in her autumn, melded together a most glorious Indian Summer season that true to its namesake, was all too short. Although feeble, Annie Marie lived to attend my college graduation. I'll never forget the smile on her face as I walked across the stage to receive my diploma magna cum laude.
She passed away in her sleep a few weeks later leaving a hole like a crater in my heart.
Her kindness and love survived her passing as I learned she had provided so generously for me in her will.
Just last night I was sitting by the fire, snuggled under her quilt reading to my own daughter when I felt the small pocket in the corner of the quilt. Out fell the largest diamond I have ever seen.
“Mommy, what is it?”
“Annie, darling, you're too young to understand now...but, one day I'll tell you a rumor I heard long ago.” I could almost hear Annie Marie laugh.
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